- - Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Jackman show sets records on the Great White Way

Hugh Jackman has left Broadway with a lot of broken hearts - and records.

According to the Associated Press, the hunky Australian actor’s one-man Broadway concert show closed Sunday afternoon at the Broadhurst Theatre after having earned $2,057,354 in its final week, the highest weekly gross recorded by the Shubert Organization, which owns the Broadhurst and 16 other Broadway theaters.

Over its 10-week run, Mr. Jackman earned a whopping $14,638,428, producers said. He now owns 10 of the 11 top grossing weeks at the Broadhurst.

Mr. Jackman, best known for playing Wolverine in “The X-Men” franchise, routinely sold out the 1,176-seat theater and usually posted weekly grosses of $1.5 million, often higher than rival musicals such as “Jersey Boys,” “Mama Mia!” “How to Succeed in Business,” “Anything Goes” and “Follies.”

Only “Wicked” and “The Lion King,” produced by other organizations, consistently outdid Mr. Jackman. But those shows also had much higher overhead costs.

The previous record at the Broadhurst was held by the Al Pacino-led “The Merchant of Venice,” which took in $1,175,750 earlier this year. Until now, the Shubert Organization’s one-week biggest haul was “Billy Elliot,” which earned $1,663,895 during an eight-show stretch last year.

During the run, Mr. Jackman raised a record $1,789,580 for the charity Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The run “not only confirms him as one of the most bankable stars in Broadway’s history but also as a fundraiser,” producer Robert Fox said.

Backed by an 18-piece orchestra and six leggy dancers, a charming Mr. Jackman belted out about two dozen musical theater songs in “Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway.” It was his third time on the Great White Way, following “The Boy From Oz” in 2003 and the play “A Steady Rain” with Daniel Craig in 2009.

The show featured his interpretations of songs ranging from the sexy R&B tune “Fever” to “Rock Island,” from “The Music Man” to a medley of classic movie songs such as “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Luck Be a Lady.” The average ticket went for $160, with top premiums going for $350.

Next year, Mr. Jackman plans to star in a version of the musical “Les Miserables.”

Berlin film festival to honor Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep is to be honored for her wide-ranging career at this year’s Berlin film festival, the Associated Press reports.

Festival organizers said Monday that the 62-year-old Streep will be presented with an honorary Golden Bear, the event’s top award, on Feb. 14.

Festival director Dieter Kosslick said, “Meryl Streep is a brilliant, versatile performer who moves with ease between dramatic and comedic roles.”

The two-time Oscar winner will be honored at a screening of her latest movie, “The Iron Lady,” in which she plays former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

The festival also will screen older Streep films, including “Kramer vs. Kramer” and “Sophie’s Choice.”

The Berlin event, the first of the year’s major European film festivals, takes place Feb. 9 through 19.

Movie sword master, Vader stand-in dies at age 89

Olympic fencer and movie sword master Bob Anderson appeared in some of film’s most famous dueling scenes - though few viewers knew it.

According to the Associated Press, Anderson, who has died at age 89, donned Darth Vader’s black helmet and fought light saber battles in two of the three original “Star Wars” films, “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi.”

Anderson, who worked with actors from Errol Flynn to Antonio Banderas during five decades as a sword master, fight director and stunt performer, died early New Year’s Day at an English hospital, the British Academy of Fencing said Monday.

Vader, “Star Wars”’ intergalactic arch-villain, was voiced by James Earl Jones and played by 6-foot, 6-inch former weightlifter David Prowse, but Anderson stepped in during the key fight scenes.

“David Prowse wasn’t very good with a sword and Bob couldn’t get him to do the moves,” said Anderson’s former assistant, Leon Hill. “Fortunately Bob could just don the costume and do it himself.”

The scenes worked beautifully, although Anderson, then nearing 60, was several inches shorter than Mr. Prowse.

Few knew of Anderson’s role until Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker, said in a 1983 interview that “Bob Anderson was the man who actually did Vader’s fighting.”

“It was always supposed to be a secret, but I finally told [director] George [Lucas] I didn’t think it was fair any more,” Mr. Hamill told Starlog magazine. “Bob worked so bloody hard that he deserves some recognition. It’s ridiculous to preserve the myth that it’s all done by one man.”

British artists argue over use of assistants

Two of Britain’s art superstars are squabbling about whether it’s acceptable to use assistants to create works of art, the Associated Press reports.

The argument pits painter David Hockney, just awarded Britain’s prestigious Order of Merit, against conceptual artist Damien Hirst.

Mr. Hockney uses the poster for his upcoming Royal Academy show to state that all the works on exhibit were “made by the artist himself.”

Radio Times magazine reported Tuesday that Mr. Hockney said in an interview that the comment was directed at Mr. Hirst, who has used assistants to help create some of his most famous pieces.

Mr. Hirst has said his assistants do a better painting job than he could and that he becomes easily bored. He is best known for suspending a shark in formaldehyde and covering a human skull with more than 8,000 diamonds.

Compiled from Web and wire service reports.